For our latest trip, we decided to visit Berlin, I’d never been to Germany before so was really excited! I’m sure like me, you have heard good things about Berlin, so we booked our flights back in February and two days before flying we picked a hotel. Flying from Edinburgh went smoothly as usual and we took around two hours to fly into the German capital.
Once we reached the terminal in Berlin, we realised this airport was much busier and warmer than in the UK. Thankfully we managed to find our way to the bus stop and an English speaking member of staff helped us use the ticket machine. We boarded the airport bus like sardines, packed in even though the bus arrived every 6 minutes. On the hot bus I wasn’t in the best mood, but the sun was shining and I couldn’t be annoyed for long!
We walked a few minutes to our hotel and were pleasantly surprised to find our hotel in a small courtyard near lots of restaurants. We stayed at CALMA Berlin Mitte which was a modern, minimalist, lovely place to stay. When we arrived we hadn’t eaten so we found a local shop and picked up a few essentials (by that I mean some german meats, cheeses and soft pretzels) to snack on before we went for Asian food that night. On our way home we decided to stop off for our first taste of German beer, we bought a Berliner each and enjoyed the sun for a while.
That evening, we walked to a nearby restaurant which I had pre booked for our first night in the city. We walked to Nordbahnhof Two Buddha’s which exceeded our expectations entirely! We had prawns, fish, vegetables and a little bit of sushi. I loved the decor and there was a huge wine menu which made it the perfect place in my mind!
Even though we were in Berlin, after eating we managed to stumble across a Brewdog bar. We decided to spend the evening here, sitting on wooden boxes, dog spotting and looking at which attractions we wanted to visit during our stay.
Our first full day in Germany was filled with sightseeing and visiting attractions. We started out at the South of the city and visited the German Museum of Technology. We had to visit at least one place where Jamie could see aeroplanes and helicopters so we chose here. We had a fab time! There was so much to see, from planes and trains to computers and telephones. If it’s electronic it probably makes an appearance in this museum.
The best part was reaching the top floor which showcased lots of aeroplanes, including some from WW2. We could walk out onto the top of the building and see a huge aeroplane set over the edge of the museum.
One aspect of the museum we hadn’t expected was walking through the trains and finding a carriage from the Holocaust. We were able to walk into the old wooden cart and see where so many innocent people walked to their deaths. It was such a profound, unexpected experience that even though it was empty I felt a little claustrophobic!
Once we left the museum, we walked along the river and decided to visit some more popular attractions like the Topography of Terror. Much busier than the museum, but thankfully due to the time of year, it wasn’t too busy. We were able to see everything we wanted. We spent around 2 hours walking through the exhibit which displays a huge amount of information about the Nazi’s reign of terror across Europe. Starting with the beginnings of intimidating opposition, we followed the journey of persecution and murder through to the end of the war. This attraction isn’t for the faint hearted, some pictures were distressing and individual stories were heartbreaking. The attraction is super informative though and we learnt so much about the realities of the war. Although heavy and sometimes upsetting, I can’t recommend this place enough. The information covers all groups who were persecuted (not just Jewish groups) and really describes how day-to-day life was impacted by the war.
Outside the building we also got to see our first glimpse of the Berlin Wall, although not particularly artistic (it wasn’t the East Side Gallery after all) it was interesting to see and we were able to read some basic information about the wall.
Only a few minutes walk away, we visited the infamous Checkpoint Charlie. Now I don’t know what I expected, but it definitely wasn’t a small shack in the middle of a busy road! I was a tad disappointed, but I guess I had set my expectations too high! None the less, it was interesting to stop by on our way to the underground station.
After a day of walking, we headed back to our hotel to change before dinner. I had booked a restaurant called Clarchens Ballhaus which I had read about online. Internet reviews described the place as fun and one of Berlin’s best kept secrets, so I couldn’t wait to visit! When we arrived I was so happy we had booked, outside tables were filled with food, fairy lights hung overhead and you could hear the music from inside. We had booked a table inside the old ballroom and walked in to see a ballroom dancing lesson in action on the dance floor!
We were taken to our table and still able to watch the lesson, the place was packed, people of all ages were eating, drinking and dancing. The place had an amazing atmosphere and we were completely drawn in. The menu at the Ballhaus was traditional German food, I managed to take a photo of our starters but when the main arrived we had already drunk a few too many glasses of wine and I forgot!
Our food was delicious, I chose slow roasted beef which was amazing. I do need to mention now that if you plan to visit here, you should set aside the whole night for the experience. There was a significant amount of time between courses, but it made the night more social and the food felt freshly prepared. When we were eating our mains, the dance teacher encouraged people from the tables to join his lesson and taught more people to dance. Unfortunately we were eating so didn’t take up his offer!
Once we had eaten, a DJ was setting up and people of all ages were dancing. We were people watching and drinking for a while before we decided to join in. Being so full of food, we thought we would be dancing for about 10 minutes… but 3 hours later we were still dancing and a live band was setting up! By around 10pm, all younger people had left and it was only Adults, there was still a huge range of people and ages which made the night even more fun!
After 10pm the Ballhaus charges people to enter like a club, but if you are there earlier no charges apply. So thankfully we spent all night there for free. After midnight, as I said, a band set up and we danced for another hour or two before deciding our feet hurt too much to carry on. According to my fitbit we had walked nearly 30,000 steps so that was a sign it was time to head home and take off our shoes! When we stepped outside we realised that we had been shouting and singing so much we could barely talk and we were partially deaf from the music. I can’t recommend this venue enough, the Ballhaus was one of the highlights of the trip, me and Jamie had the best night. We had planned to only stay for a few hours and were there until the early hours of the morning. If we hadn’t been so active in the day we would have stayed even longer. If I go back to Berlin this will be one of the first things I prebook!
After some much needed sleep, we woke up a little worse for wear (I blame the wine) but thankfully because we had breakfast included in our booking, that motivated us to still get up early and head down for some food. Ok I say that but after eating lots for breakfast we got back up to the room and I ended up having a nap instead of getting ready for the day!
After a well deserved nap (at least thats what I tell myself) we ventured to Museum Island to see the Cathedral and visit the Neues Museum. We took our first trip on a tram and learnt the hard way that you need to use coins to pay. We only had enough money to pay for 1 ticket but thankfully no one checked! We were dropped off at the end of the line and walked over the bridges to the beautiful Island.
The first thing you notice is how amazing the architecture is. We arrived at the south of the island so were immediately able to see the beautiful Cathedral. The sun was shining, people were singing, playing guitars and blowing bubbles. I felt like we were living in the 1980’s and I was loving it!
We walked over to the water fountain and around all of the nearby buildings to see how impressive they were up close. I also wanted to walk around in the sun to tan more, but thats another story. We walked through a huge pillared walkway and eventually found ourselves at the Neues Museum. The majority of this museum includes collections from Ancient Egypt (something I find particularly interesting) which is why we chose to visit, but there are so many to choose from, you can find one which piques your own interests.
Thankfully we didn’t need to queue for tickets due to the time of year. But if you visit in the summer, I would recommend pre-booking because it can become crazy busy. We had a great time at this museum, again the architecture and building interior were stunning. It included the best collections I had ever seen. From original papyrus to golden sarcophagi, we saw so many well preserved pieces and learnt lots of new facts. I think the highlight of the museum for me was the Queen Nefertiti bust which is world famous. We weren’t able to take photos in that exhibition but if you google it, you will know which statue I mean!
We managed to make our way around all of the museum despite the time I lost napping earlier that day. When we left at 5, the sun was still shining so we decided to walk along the river and visit the north side of the Island to see the beautiful Bode museum. There was a busker outside the museum so we sat with the crowds on the walls of the bridge and soaked up the sun. It was a beautiful place to relax and I was sat next to a one-eyed dog so I couldn’t have been happier!
Once it reached around 7pm we decided to walk back towards the hotel and stopped off for sushi along the way. We had a lovely time at Kuchi Mitte which served us lots of good sushi. It’s useful to know that the staff are happy to speak English too if you’re worried about ordering sushi in German!
We spent the rest of the evening having a few drinks and relaxing, it was so nice to be out in the sun until the late evening. I hope you enjoyed reading about the first part of our action-packed trip. I will post next week about the second half of our Berlin adventure which was even busier than the first!